Fertilizers for self-contained box gardens

mulege, Mexico

Let's hear what has worked for you. Or not worked.

I'm making my own fertilizer from seaweed, fish, EM and whatever else shows up.

I'd like to be able to use this in my HEB's.

The floor is now open for debate.


Johnson City, TN(Zone 6b)

This is a great idea. Wish I had thought of it.

That is really the question behind the question, what's wrong with this picture? Is it the fertilizer that makes the difference ? Because all else is equal, right?
Katie, you make your own fertilizer. Not exactly like me making my own bread...How do you know what you need and in what amounts?

mulege, Mexico

There's a lot of guesswork and observation involved.

One nice thing about the HEB is that I have a blueberry plant growing in one and I can give it the acid fertilizer it wants (one of the few that I buy).

A lot is a matter of knowing (and continually reviewing) which plants are heavy feeders and which do better with a lighter hand.

One reason I'm hoping to hear more about what other people are doing is to expand my options. I think I could pour diluted fertilizer down into the HEB, pouring next to the plant rather than using the feeding tube. Any thoughts on this, anyone?

Jaywacker, thanks for mentioning the book. Looks like it's Amazon time.

Keep those cards and letters coming in.


Crestview, FL

I have poured compost tea into the reservoirs before, I've used sea magic in the reservoirs before and I've tried a liquid booster fertilizer also. I have also sprayed my plants once with rot stop when it rained for a whole week nonstop as that much rain causes a lot of growth, and that growth can cause BER if you don't do something; or, so I hear.

I have sprayed my totes with corn in them with with liquid fertilizer when I first planted the stalks in the boxes as I figured it would take a little while, til the fertilizer strip went to work. With Bob's grow bags, I was watering every other day with his fertilizer out of a 2 gallon watering can, then rainy season started up, so now, they get fertilizer every day it doesn't rain, but as big as they are getting, I don't think it's hurting them any. And the rain does wash away nutrients and fertilizer, so, I have to adjust for that.

I know we aren't to use any liquid fertilizer in the EBs; but, I wanted to give my veggies a boost, so, took on down my own path. LOL On my topsy's and revolutionary planters I used Schultz's fertilizer; but, I have used Bob's fertilizer on them also with the watering can, due to the fact that I figure the fertilizer in the topsy will eventually wash out the bottom anyways. I also used his fertilizer in my bloommaster for the cukes and in the hanging grow bags of beans.

mulege, Mexico

And while we're on the subject of fertilizer, what about microorganisms? If plants like living soil that means soil that has microorganisms, doesn't it? And where do they come from if you plant in a sterile soiless mix?

Questions, questions.


Oceanside, CA(Zone 10a)

It's all about good soil in EBs imo. Soiless mixes just aren't up to the task from my experience this year. EB Stone's Potting Soil(not Earthbox soil, but this... http://www.ebstone.org/13_ednas.php ) and MG Potting Mix have out preformed Coir and EB's mix. The 2 coir and the 2 EB mix have needed a dose of fertilizer already. While the quality potting soil doesn't. I am seeing a lot of phosphorous deficiency in both coir and what EB sends out. I love the feel of both but I won't be using it again since I have access to potting soil that does well in an EB.

Potting mixes and soils that work(From an EB email)...

* Miracle-gro Potting Soil
* Miracle gro Moisture Control Potting Mix
* Miracle-gro Organic Mix
* Pro-mix BX
* Pro-mix numerous other formulas
* Jungle-Growth
* Fertilome
* ASB Potting Mix
* Eko Potting Mix
* Sun-Grow Metro Mix 360
* Sun-Grow, numerous other formulas
* Baccto Professional Potting Mix
* Baccto Lite Premium Potting Soil
* EB Stone Edna's Potting Soil (west coast)
* EB Stone Flower & Vegetable Planting mix
* Kellogg's Gardener & Bloom Blue Ribbon Blend Potting Soil (west coast)
* Kellogg's Champions Blend Potting Soil (west coast)

As far as fertilizing, I have been a bad boy. I'm using a 15-30-15 slow release in a box(corn). They look great atm but we shall see if they make.

I also have used MG water soluble in my reservoirs to help the phosphorous deficiencies. It helped so much, that I will definitely use it again if necessary.

Both slow release and water soluble are supposed to be a no-no for EBs. I say they help if done correctly.

I also use Spray-N-Grow on occasion. But it's only adding Magnesium and zinc. Not really necessary if you have a good soil.

mulege, Mexico

Thank you for your input. This is the kind of information I was hoping we could get posted here.

Reasearching this led me to Darius' article on biochar. Has anyone used some of this in an EB or HEB?


Crestview, FL

I think a lot of it is trial and error and just plain common sense, if your leaves are turning yellow, stop what you are doing, if they are staying green and healthy you are doing something right. I know I'll be watering every day with fertilizer water after the two week nonstop rain spell, as most the stuff will be washed right out of the potting mixes and the plants will need it.

I really don't mind using a 2 gallon watering can with Bob's fertilizer in it if that is what it takes also, gives me time to inspect for bugs. I'm finding out I'm not having too much a problem with the bugs this Spring, they will probably come in force this summer when it starts to get hot here. For now they are not invading my plants. Of course, I did the bury the stem routine with most all my tomatoes so they have some healthy looking stalks and stems on them and can withstand just about anything that is whipped at them I think, they made it this far in my care, so hey they gotta be tough to have survived that. LOL

Ray: I'm not sure if I would use soil in my EBs, I prefer to use potting mixes and what are the signs of phospherous deficiency and how do you correct it please? I do know that Jungle Grow has come out with many new potting mixes, it's like a smorgasbord at Lowes now in the potting mix department. LOL


Oceanside, CA(Zone 10a)

Katie: Could you point me in the direction of the biochar article? I'm not familiar with it. I think making your own fertilizer and soil is a great idea. I will be experimenting with both this year and next. I just need to gather more info. It saves a lot of money in the long run.

Joy: Well, I thought the same about using soil in my EBs until Earthbox sent me the list of compatible soils and mixes. I was so happy to see the soil I use for containers on it. It is expensive but as they say, you get what you pay for. I was hesitant because everything I heard prior was never use a potting soil in a EB, HEB, GP, etc. I would agree with that in part. If you do plan on using a potting soil in a box, make sure it's high quality. If unsure do the Grab & Squeeze test. If you can squeeze a handful of soil and it falls apart after opening your hand it's good to go. The EB Stone didn't clump up at all while the MG Potting mix had half still clumped. IMO, a quality potting soil will always beat a quality soilless mix. The potting soil isn't close to being as light and powdery as the mix Earthbox sends out but it works, and imo works better.

As far as phosphorus deficiency, purpled leaves is what I was experiencing. I sprayed some foliar fert on it and it fixed it for a day or 2. Well, it slowed it down for a bit. The purpling came back in a few days. I went against most of what I was told and added some MG water soluble to the reservoir. 2 days later, the purple leaves disappeared and hasn't returned. Lots of fruit setting now. I haven't had to re-fertilize any of my EBs I'm using potting soil in. While I have had to with all the rest.

Oceanside, CA(Zone 10a)

Here's exactly what my leaves looked like with phosphorus deficiency....

Thumbnail by Ray_Der_Phan
mulege, Mexico

Go to "guides and Information." Under that, go to "Articles" then search for biochar. Like so much of the information here, it's addicting. I've been reading about it and how to make it for hours. I have my seaweed friend going to talk to a charcoal maker.


Oceanside, CA(Zone 10a)

Found it! Thank you for pointing me in the right direction. I'm watching the videos atm. My first question would be....What does it do to the PH of a soil? The article states....

After you add your biochar to the garden, it is important to test the pH. Biochar is slightly alkaline, and soil scientists donít yet know how it affects pH in the soil when added with organic fertilizers and minerals. Some think biochar plus an organic fertilizer may produce a neutral pH. More research is needed.

It sounds like a good thing for large farms. But for EBs....If making your own soil and adding biochar/agrichar to it seems to be ok as long as the ph is right and it doesn't retain too much moisture.

Crestview, FL

Ray: Thanks so much for that information. When it rains a lot here, the EBs drain a lot of water out the drainage holes and my thoughts are just this, it takes some of the ferts with it I've seen the ferts coming out as the water is tinged not clear. Also; even though you wet the fertilizer strip in the EB, it seems like it would take a little while to start working. So; I like to give my plants a little boost, like I said earlier on though, you have to proceed with caution. Your plants look marvelous by the way. And I do appreciate you're sharing that photo of the purple leaf with us, that has given me a sigh of relief. The Jungle Grow has fertilizer mixed in the bag with the potting mix though I noticed that right off the bat. That is why I say systems are sold, not just a product. If you use coconut coir which has nothing in it, you really need to use the fertilizer recommended for use with it. That is why have been using Bob's fertilizer and espsom salts with his coconut coir in the lay flat bags and 5 gallon bags.

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